imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

L’affaire Blair

by Heather MacDonald Friday, May. 16, 2003 at 12:48 PM

At the paper of record, it seems, ideology trumps truth.

The New York Times has made its choice: preserving the fictions around affirmative action is more important than shoring up its crumbling journalistic reputation. Faced with a growing scandal around the recently discovered fabrications and plagiarism of young Times reporter Jayson Blair, the Times is denying the most plausible reason why it kept handing Blair plum assignments despite clear evidence of his incompetence: Blair was black. But in denying that the Blair fiasco hinges on race, the Times has left itself open to a far more serious charge: that winking at journalistic blunders is standard Times practice.

Reporter Jayson Blair blazed a trail of deceit through the Times’s news pages. His most spectacular frauds occurred during two of the most important stories of the last year: the sniper shootings in the D.C. metropolitan area last fall and the war in Iraq. Blair concocted out of thin air an incendiary story of prosecutorial blundering in the interrogation of D.C. sniper John Muhammad. Equally fabricated was a front-page story claiming that investigators had evidence fingering Lee Boyd Malvo as the shooter in the sniper killings. Blair’s reporting from the home front during the Iraq War should earn him an award from the Sierra Club: conserving resources, it was constructed by zealous recycling of other reporters’ stories, fictitiously filed from far-flung datelines across the country while Blair was sipping lattes in Brooklyn.

On Sunday, the New York Times ran more than four full pages purporting to document and atone for the Blair frauds. But rather than coming clean about the Blair case, the Times has chosen to deny its central plot line: the risks of letting the mission of racial diversity trump professional standards. The Times portrays itself as an unwitting victim of a pathological liar, who abused the trust essential to any news organization. Yes, acknowledges the Times, Blair was promoted at break-neck speed, but his race had nothing to do with his rise. Rather, he was rewarded for his accomplishments. How could we have known, argues the Times, that he was making stories up, since we had no inkling of his perfidy?

This story line is absurd on its face. From the moment Blair arrived at the Times through a minority-recruiting program, supervisors noted his high error rates and sloppy work habits. Before every promotion, at least one editor had called attention to his inadequate skills and endemic inaccuracies—the paper ran 50 corrections on Blair stories over three and a half years. He behaved unprofessionally—circulating confidential documents, talking back to supervisors, and running up a hefty bar tab on the company account. Management was on repeated notice of his severe shortcomings as a reporter yet chose to ignore and even suppress them.

It’s hard not to feel the poignancy of the Times’s dilemma. For years it has bludgeoned the world on the topic of affirmative action. It has branded anyone who opposes color-coded admissions practices and hiring as insensitive to blacks, if not racist. It has argued that race-based hiring practices are essential to a newsroom. And it has denied assiduously that racial preferences may require lowered standards.

Faced with the record of Blair’s monumental malpractice and its own persistent overlooking of that malpractice, the Times had a choice. It could admit that, at least in this case, the paper had indeed relaxed its ordinary standards of excellence to push a black reporter quickly up the ranks. Doing so would undercut its credo that an obsession with diversity never sacrifices quality. But the alternative response to the Blair affair would seem much worse: if race played no role in the Times’s tolerance for Blair’s errors, then presumably other reporters have received similar exemptions from journalistic canons. If management’s treatment of Blair was not preferential, but merely ordinary, we should expect similar devastating exposes of other reporters’ work in the future. In other words: If the Blair fiasco was the product of universally applied Times standards, then the paper has gone to the dogs.

Amazingly, the Times has chosen to sacrifice its own reputation rather than the myths around affirmative action. Says managing editor Gerald Boyd: “To say now that [Blair’s] promotion was about diversity in my view doesn’t begin to capture what was going on.” OK, fine. We’ll take the Times at its word—though we have less and less reason to do so. (An editor who protested one of Blair’s many promotions, for example, was reminded of the paper’s commitment to diversify, and executive editor Howell Raines had boasted to the National Association of Black Journalists in 2001 that the hiring of Blair had made the staff “more diverse.”) So according to the Times’s logic, when other reporters are told that their correction rates are “extraordinarily high by the standards of the paper,” when their editors warn top management that those same reporters are “big trouble,” when supervisors send anguished appeals to the paper’s executives that the reporters should be “stop[ped] from writing” for the Times “right now,” the Times’s standard response would be to dispatch them to the biggest, most complicated stories of the year.

If the Times chooses to self-destruct, that is its prerogative. But it has missed an opportunity to explore a serious problem: the toll that affirmative action can take on its beneficiaries. Perhaps Blair’s never-disclosed “personal problems” were the sole cause of his frenzied deceptions. But another possible explanation is the pressure to perform in a role for which he was not qualified.

The practitioners of affirmative action believe that they are bestowing a great favor on minorities by admitting them into academic or professional environments for which they are less prepared than their peers. This is a self-serving fiction. Being put into a tough competitive world with fewer tools to compete than your colleagues is no picnic. While there are some happy endings to such deliberate mismatches between qualifications and academic or job demands, in many cases these mismatches do more for the egos of the social engineers than for their alleged beneficiaries. Now the Times is walking away from its own culpability in pushing an out-of-his-depth black reporter too far, too fast. “Let’s not begin to demonize our executives—either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher,” warns publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. Meanwhile, those highly qualified minority applicants who would have gotten a position under a color-blind system are unjustly but unavoidably stigmatized as affirmative action recruits.

Journalistic fraud and error are equal-opportunity sins. White reporters, such as the infamous Stephen Glass, have committed hoaxes as scandalous as anything Jayson Blair accomplished. But few had amassed so extensive a record of known errors and unprofessional behavior before their frauds were exposed. It defies credulity to believe that if Blair had been white, the Times would have given him so many second chances and promotions in the face of ongoing, unchanging evidence of sub-par performance. The Times, however, maintains that it would have. Perhaps its moniker should now read, instead of the newspaper of record, “the newspaper of conscious negligence.”

Report this post as:

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM


lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator S19 12:51AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator S15 3:49AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Propagande de virus, virus de propagande S10 7:34AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates S08 6:17PM

Paraphysique de l'origami S08 7:11AM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Du réussissement putréfié S06 10:55AM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Log S06 4:25AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

Ex-voto de réification S03 10:24AM

Please Oppose Warmonger, Execution and Torture Supporting Bush Operative Brett Kavanaugh A31 10:45PM

Paraphysique d'exploitation occultation A31 10:24PM

Ryan Zinke Is Charging Taxpayers For A Trophy Hunters' Council A31 2:10PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy